I like to think that we've got a plan, so let's stick to it. That said, once we've stuck to it, we're allowed as much improvisation as anyone cares to indulge themselves in.Cooking and improvising go hand in hand. The preparation of meals is far from being a stress-free activity, thus in order to carry out that task properly and be in control of the situation during moments of pure adrenaline rush, one needs to be highly resourceful, endlessly witty and extremely flexible. In the kitchen, many things can go awfully wrong or turn out contrarily to what you've expected. Consequently, last-minute decision taking, fast thinking and inventiveness are a necessity at all times, or else you'll panic and everything will go terribly pear-shaped. Besides, it is more fun not to systematically depend on derectives, rely on written formulas and follow them to the letter as fierce self-reliance unleashes your aptitude for brilliancy.
- Guy Ritchie
Of course, in pursuance of versatility, fluidity and creative emancipation, a cook must possess a basic knowledge of culinary techniques (master principles and practices, acquire essential skills and know how recipes work by understanding their structure), learn about ingredients and their roles as well as properties (how they taste, with what they can be or can't be paired, etc...), be open-minded as well as adventurous and love to experiment. The key to liberty, virtuousity and dexterity lies within exercise, perseverance and courage. So before you throw the towel and declare that it is impossible to reach this level of adroitness, remember that nothing comes without effort and that great art requires suffering. In life, nothing is free.
Stovetop geniuses have the capacity to quickly and easily assemble amazing dishes even when all hell lets loose in their headquarters and disaster is about to strike. Problems don't appear to affect them and they seem to invariably find a solution to each of them. Similarly to a surfer, a cuisinier confronts the tallest waves of tension with confidence and he/she rarely fails to overcome them by virtue of his/her composure and cool attitude...
Some of us were fortunate to be raised in homes where family members craftily prepared food simply by using their imagination. We consider it a blessing as thanks to those extraordinary individuals, we were introduced to the joys of cooking instinctively and had the possibility to gain a solid erudition just by observing them at work or by playing the apprentice chef or the helpful commis.
As a child and teenager, I used to hover a lot around my grandmothers' and mother's kitchens. These welcoming and soothingly warm rooms were the nevralgic center of their homes and it felt good to hang out there, because they smelled wonderful and that's where company was to be found. As far as I can remember, I was always attracted to this area of the house/apartment like a moth to a flame. I could not resist sitting at the table and looking at what was happening around the range oven or stirring the pans' contents as well as having a quick taste of the yummy fare surrounding me whenever my granny and mum turned their backs. Over the years, I have swallowed an immense amount of precious information which cannot be found in books and which I constantly put to use on a daily basis.
In the abstract art of cooking,
ingredients trump appliances,
passion supersedes expertise,
creativity triumphs over technique,
spontaneity inspires invention,
and wine makes even the worst culinary disaster taste delicious.
- Bob Blumer
Cooking requires confident guesswork and improvisation-- experimentation and substitution, dealing with failure and uncertainty in a creative way.My gastronomic experience has helped me become a dautnless foodie who can face catastrophes and flops without flipping out excessively or being paralized by confusion and the terror of failure. I have solid nerves and more than one trick in my hat. Well, that's maybe not 100% accurate (I'm embellishing things a little here). Nobody's perfect and I'm not a saint, therefore I cannot solemnly promise/gurantee that I won't throw a fit every now and then, fling things across the kitchen, swear like a sailor or behave like a tantrummy diva if difficulties arise (I get easily hot and bothered - LOL). Anaway, despite my occasional loss of temper and moody behaviour, whatever may happen, I'll always find a way out of the painfuland uncomfortable position I am in.
- Paul Theroux
No later than two weeks prior to writing this article, while I was concocting "Spanakopita", a last-minute complication forced me to drastically change my plans. Unfortunately, my store-bought yufka (I make my own when I have enough time on my hands) had an unpleasantly and suspiscious sourdoughyy odor which alarmed me. After some serious pondering, it is with a heavy heart that I decided chuck it in the dustbin (I hate spoiling food and nearly never get rid of anything). Once that was done, I had to come up with an alternative dish. In less than 60 seconds I found the perfect replacement for the inedible phyllo dough and concocted a wholemeal shortcrust pastry in a jiffy. So, for supper that Friday night, instead of Greek börek, "Whole Wheat Spinach And Feta Pie" landed on the menu. Luckily, my sagacity saved the evening, and P. greeted my creation with a beaming smile and sparkling eyes (how rewarding!).
This remarkably luscious, refined tasting, comforting and healthy (rich in fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin A, folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, magnesium, etc...) savory treat can be eaten warm or cold, depending on the season, and the leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator (up to a week) as well as frozen (up to a month) and turned into a much welcomed easy/lazy dinner for knackered workers. Superfood with gusto!
P.S. Next week and for a few days only, I'll be absent from the net (blog & social media), so don't worry if I don't visit your blog, leave a comment on your last post or show any sign of life on either Facebook or Twitter...
Whole Wheat Spinach and Feta Pie
Recipe by Rosa Mayland, October 2012.
Serves 4-6/makes a 24cm pie.
Ingredients For The "Whole Wheat Shortcrust Pastry":
380g Whole wheat flour
1 2/3 Tsps Fine sea salt
100g Lard, cold & cut into small cubes
90g Unsalted butter, cold & cut into small cubes
Enough water to blend (~90-100ml)
1 Beaten egg, for glazing the top of the pie
Ingredients For The "Filling":
1 Tbs Olive oil
3 Medium onions, chopped finely
4 Cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 1/2 Tsp Dried dill
600g Frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry and chopped finely
3 Eggs (~63g)
250g Feta, finely chopped
50g Mature Gruyère, cut into small cubes
Pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
Method For The "Shortcrust Pastry":
1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl/bassin.
2. Add the lard and butter. Rub between the fingers until the mixture is flaky.
3. Pour in the water, gradually, while continuously cutting and stirring with a knife (stop adding water when the dough is stiff - it should not be sticky or wet). Gather up into a soft ball and place it in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
Method For The "Filling":
4. In a hot frying pan/skillet, add the oil and chopped onion. Fry until translucid.
5. Add the garlic and dill. Cook for another minute.
6. Add the spinach and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.
7. Put the mixture in a big bowl and let cool completely.
8. Incorporate the eggs, ricotta, feta and Gruyère to the spinach mixture.
9. Salt and pepper to taste.
Method For "Assembling The Pie":
10. Heat the oven to 200°C (400° F).
11. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry and line the base of a 24cm (9 1/2 inches) pie plate.
12. Fill with the spinach mixture and brush the edges of the pastry with water.
13. Roll out the remaining dough (1/3) and cover the pie.
14. Press the edges of the pastry to seal and trim off the excess.
15. With the remaining pastry, decorate the pie top as desired (leaves, flowers, et...).
16. Prick the top of the pastry case to allow steam to escape and glaze the top with the beaten egg
17. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden.
You can also make your pastry with plain flour or your filling with fresh spinach and replace the feta as well as the Gruyère by any other cheese of your choice.
Cut into wedges and serve hot or cold with a crisp green salad or a tomato salad.
This pie is perfect for taking on picnics or to potlucks.
Recette par Rosa Mayland, octobre 2012.
Pour 4-6 personnes/1 pie de 24cm.
Ingrédients Pour La "Pâte Brisée A La Farine Complète":
380g de Farine complète
1 2/3 CC de Sel de mer fin
100g de Saindoux, froid et coupé en petits dés
90g de Beurre non-salé, froid et coupé en petits dés
Suffisamment d'eau froide afin que la pâte forme une boule (~90-100ml)
1 Oeuf battu, pour glacer le dessus du pie
Ingredients Pour La Garniture":
1 CS d'Huile d'olive
3 oignons moyens, hachés finement
4 Gousses d'ail, hachées finement
1 1/2 CC d'Aneth séchée
600g d'Epinards congelés, décongelés, essorés et hachés finement
3 Oeufs (~63g)
250g de Ricotta
250g de Feta, hachée finement
50g de Gruyère salé, coupé en petits cubes
Poivre noir moulu, selon goût
Sel de mer fin, selon goût
Méthode Pour la "Pâte Brisée A La Farine Complète":
1. Tamiser la farine et le sel dans un bol.
2. Ajouter le beurre, puis frotter la farine et le beurre entre les doigts afin d'obtenir un mélange qui ait une texture sabloneuse.
3. Verser l'eau, graduellement, tout en mélangeant bien (ne plus ajouter d'eau quand la pâte atteint la bonne consistance -ni trop mouillée, ni trop collante). Former une boule puis la mettre au frigo pendant que vous préparez la garniture.
Méthode pour la "Garniture":
4. Dans une poêle chaude, ajouter l'huile et l'oignon haché. Faire revenir en remuant constamment jusqu'à ce qu'il soit translucide.
5. Ajouter l'ail et l'aneth. Faire revenir pendant une minute.
6. Ajouter les épinards et faire cuire pendant environ 5 minutes, tout en remuant régulièrement.
7. Mettre le mélange dans un grand bol et laisser refroidir complètement.
8. Incorporer les oeufs, la ricotta, la feta et le gruyère.
9. Saler et poivrer selon goût.
Méthode Pour "Assembler Le Pie":
10. Chauffer le four à 200 ° C.
11. Etaler 2/3 de la pâte et foncer la base d'un plat à pie de 24cm de diamètre.
12. Remplir avec la garniture et mouiller les bords de la pâte avec de l'eau.
13. Etaler la pâte restante (1/3) et couvrir le pie.
14. Appuyez sur les bords de la pâte pour les sceller et couper l'excédent de pâte.
15. Avec la pâte restante, décorer le dessus du pie comme vous le souhaitez (feuilles, fleurs, et ...).
16. Piquer le couvercle de pâte afin de permettre à la vapeur de s'échapper et glacer le dessus avec l'œuf battu.
17. Cuire au four pendant environ 40 minutes, jusqu'à ce que la pâte soit dorée et croustillante.
Vous pouvez également fabriquer votre pâte avec de la farine ordinaire et faire votre garniture avec des épinards frais ansi que remplacer la feta et le Gruyère par un autre fromage de votre choix.
Couper en tranches et servir chaud ou froid avec une salade verte ou une salade de tomates.
Cette tarte est parfaite pour prendre en pique-nique ou pour offrir lors de soupers canadiens.